How to improve your bird photography Part 3. Timing

The art of timing .

Timing is everything” so they say, this is true of any kind of photography, but is especially true of wildlife and landscape photography.

This photo below looks simple enough, but it took a wee bit of patience to get what I wanted.
I could see the burst of sunlight shooting downwards through a hole in the cloud and I could see a triangle shaped stack of drift wood on the sand  in front of me .
I could track that sun burst and  knew if if the cloud did not close over, it would shower down behind the stack setting it apart from the rest of the image, so I waited for more than a few moments to get the shot.
Putting some thought into the shot and being patient  can really give the photographer a great deal of satisfaction. The result  speaks for itself.

Sun Burst  

waikanae sunset-900

For landscapes the rule is get there early and prepare to stay late.
Sunset and sunrise

 

Bird Action .

I consider bird photography the most challenging of all photographic disciplines, esp small birds that never sit still for long .

Here is a perfect example  of one such species of bird, the Grey Warbler or riroriro.

Small, flighty, jittery, hardly ever still and in one place for more than a split second , very quick  off the mark, these birds demand your total  %100 concentration .

Whoops too slow on the shutter this time, the birds head is facing away from the camera, no score Tony.

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I timed it right and nailed  this one .

The Grey Warbler,  or riroriro.

 

Way too slow.

Well yes  this is  a lovely image of a stalk  but not much else , bad , bad boy, Tony lol

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This Time I was on to it , good boy Tony.

The grey warbler or riroriro

 

So how do you prepare for birds like the Warbler.

1.  pre-focus  your lens to where you expect your bird to most likely sit. This way the lens doesn’t waste time hunting  for the bird.
With little birds you expect them to be close so set your long lens 300mil and longer to focus on the 2-3 meter setting most lenses have.

2. get the light right, you want it coming from behind you over your shoulders, this can really help speed up the focal system to lock onto your target.

3  Don’t muck around with your shot. As soon as you know the focus system is locking on to your bird  fire off a burst of images at high speed.

Watching the light through the view finder.

Lying flat on the ground I was tracking this Wood Duck (below) in the early morning light.
The bird was moving and I was locked on to the bird keeping it in the frame and focused. Click went the shutter
The profile was awesome, the focus was perfect, but I had failed to notice that the birds head had moved in the shadows.
The light was now falling on the body of the bird, but not on its head.
Without light on the birds head this image is destined for the recycle  bin .

Wood Ducks-1520

 

The bird did an about turn and came back and I tried again, this time I got the lighting right but the birds posture was not as dramatic.

Oh well you cant win them all I guess.

Wood Duck

 

Once again I timed this shot wrong , not only did I not see the floating bird, but the focus locked onto it instead of my intended target.

red billed gulls--3

 

I stayed on the bird and tried again.

This is how we roll.

red billed gulls--4

 

 

Tracking and staying on target.

We have all seen the classic English Spitfire vs the German Messerschmitt 109 sequences at the movies.
The hero in the Spitfire hunts for his target , finds it, tracks it, locks onto it , fires away and eventually blows it out of the sky.

Photographing small flying birds is not that much different.
The trick is to get that bird in the centre of the view finder and let rip and keep shooting  while trying to keep that bird dead centre.
Just because the bird moves away from the centre  and goes out of focus, don’t give up, don’t just stop, keep firing and try and re-acquire the bird.

Below is a sequence , I lost the bird , a small Cape Petrel as it flew past very close but I stayed with it  shooting all the way,  until it landed, or in this case crash landed on the surface of the water.

Just wing it but dont give up.

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As the bird swung round the end of the boat I kept shooting,  catching up with it as it crash landed , had I not stayed with it, I would have missed out on this very amusing image.

Cape Petrel--2

 

When things go right because you pre-empt .

Getting to know your target species can give you some real advantages .
These four last images are a good example.
Ducks when washing  will dip their heads and backs completely under the water 2 -3 times before rising up and wildly flapping their wings.
When you see this behaviour you can get ready for the shot.

Here goes the dip.

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Now we are ready for the flap.

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Once again I saw the dip and prepared to catch the coming eruption.

Wood Duck

 

My timing was perfect with this female Wood Duck

Wood Duck

I hope this has been helpful  to you peoples out there.
Photography can be a very richly rewarding hobby or obsession, its a journey of discovery and most certainly  one about ourselves .
How we go about that journey and treat other people that are on their journey says a lot about who we are  as people.  ❤

Up coming events :
Cook Straight  Albatross adventure

We still have a few seats to fill for our pelagic trip out of Wellington  on the 12th of November.
$150.00 per person,
Max 12 people on board, per trip.
7am – 2pm  , 7 hours on the water with the birds
1 hour steaming out and back with the birds chasing us all the way back in.
Roast Chicken lunch provided .
Snacks and tea on board on demand.
Deep sea fishing also available  for an extra $30.00.
This is a wonderful opportunity  to sea Albatross and a variety of deep sea birds right up close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monthly report for June 2017

Landscape Workshop Waiakane

June kicked off my winter workshops at Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast, with  a lovely couple from the South Island  that were just starting their road trip up the North Island and back.
Glennys  and her Hubby came to me fresh from the Inter-Islander ferry,  full of enthusiasm and excitement  and were looking for a few pointers to help them get the best out of their new investment (their camera).
The sun was out in all its glory and we set to work, I gave them my  preliminary talk about how the camera works, how it sees and interprets and converts all the information outside the camera into a digital image on the inside and then off we went.

Once out in the field the focus changed more towards  the composition and creative side of things.
We were then blessed with a visit from a local of some renown, a very friendly kōtare or Sacred Kingfisher.

This bird is super friendly and even though Glennys did not have a camera setup suitable for birds, she got images that would be the envy of her mates.

kōtare  or Sacred Kingfisher -3194-Edit

 

 

As the sun started setting  the light became soft  and clikerty click went the shutters as our new friend allowed us to take amazing photos of him in the wonderful soft light.

kōtare  or Sacred Kingfisher -3174-Edit

pa  pango or scaup  were also available.

A Male pa pango showing off his colouring. 

scaup or pa-pango--5

 

I have a very nice place to take sunset photos of Kapiti Island which is a little different from where most  people take photos of the sunset .

I like a foreground interest if possible, just so long as it leads us into the image and doesn’t  compete with the main subject .
The river and plant life in this shot adds an extra  interest, while the river it self, leads our eye through to the back of the image and the sunset and clouds, nothing is lost and all is gain.

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Thus as the sun set I said farewell to Glennys and her hubby as they headed north  and I went home and prepared  for my next workshop on the following morning.

Sunday dawned a cloudless winter day, a classic to be out on the Kapiti coast in winter.

I met Louise at the car park and we spent an hour together walking around the place , looking at the birds, taking a few photos and discussing how we were going to tackle the day ahead of us .

The tide was huge and fully in,  not ideal for the start of the workshop, but with 4 people heading our way fast,  we were in with a grin as they say.

waikanae

 

These posts are a feature in the area , everyone it seems wants a picture of them.

waikanae --2

 

Once everyone had arrived, Lou gathered them together like her own little flock and I drew diagrams on the ground of a camera and repeated the information I shared with Glennys  the night before.

Once I was confident the group had understood the basics and they had had, all their questions answered we hit the ponds .

Here is a sample of some of the shots our group got.

First up is Jakes, he was pretty happy with his days efforts.

An adult Red Bill Gull

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Next up is Samantha’s effort.

A young and very obliging Pied Cormorant poses for the team.

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Terry one of our members of our little group is more or less confined to a wheel chair .
The good thing about Waimanu Lagoons, is that we can  cater for those with limited mobility .

Terry locked and loaded ready for action.

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Terry was very pleased with this shot of this weweia of Dabchick , to tell the truth I would be pleased with it too.

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As we made our way around the ponds  Danger Mouse, ever the enthusiastic assistant,  helped Terry out of her chair and assisted her, up close to a family of Black Swans hidden from view behind some flax bushes.

Terry up close and personal with a family of Black Swan.

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At the end of the ponds we made a u turn and  returned to the car  on the opposite side of the  of the ponds for lunch.

After lunch, a trip out to the river mouth along the spit was called for .

This shell like object  became a object of great interest when held up to the light.

shell-

 

Five hours on the trot seems to be enough learning for even the most keen of Photographers, so we headed back to the car and after a debriefing, I  dismissed the group.
I thought they would all head home but how wrong I was .
The real fun was just about to begin, the shenanigans was just starting lol

Louise aka Danger Mouse  and Terry up to no good in the bushes  

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Jake is trying hard to catch them doing something he can post later on face book.

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This black shag cant make head nor tail feathers of anything thats going on .

Black Shag

 

 

The gang  called it quits went home, but Jake stayed on for sunset with Danger Mouse and I .

It looked like an interesting sunset heading our way,  but as the sun descended , the cloud thickened  quite a bit  over Kapiti Island  ,  I looked for the positive and focused in on that.

With the sunlight bursting out from both the top and the bottom of the clouds I saw an opportunity to place some flax stalks within the bottom sun burst to add additional interest .

sunset  waikanae

 

As the sun dipped lower in the sky the top sunburst was gone but a hole in the cloud opened up  providing an opportunity for a strong  light to beam  downwards  and I could see that the cloud moving as the breeze drove it, that the beam of light was going to drift over  a stack of driftwood, shaped in a pyramid like fashion, so I waited and snapped the photo when it happened.

waikanae sunset-900

 

As that say that was about that for the day.

I returned later that week for another crack at the sunset  but alas this time the cloud dissipated.

Please note I have three elements kind of lined up here
the dead branch, then further into the picture a stick and then past that the reflection of the stacked wood.
This line leads us naturally yet quite unconsciously  through the image .
The bright light on the water and the strong colour in the reflection acts like a magnet pulling us into the image as well.
All in all I was very pleased with this image.
It was not the sunset I was hoping for, but Im proud of the image I did get.

Sunsets-

With  another day out planned for the following weekend,  June was a very busy month for me.

A big thanks to those who came on my workshops and to Danger Mouse for helping me and keeping the troops in line and well… for just being  the ever enthusiastic Danger Mouse willing to go that extra mile to get the shot lol

Bless ya heaps  folks ❤
For more info on my workshops please look here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posture. How to improve your bird photography, part 2.

In our last article on how to improve our bird photography, we looked at composition from the photographers side and what we can do to position ourselves in such a way as to  get the best possible composition here .
In this short article  we will look at the posture, position, or if you like, the attitude of the bird.

Patience. 
Being patient is the key here, wait till your subject is in a good posture or position  to show themselves off before tripping that shutter.

In this example below, the bird has wonderful, interesting, early morning light, falling on the face of the  bird, we are positioned correctly, sun is behind us and we are down low so the profile is great,  but I pressed the shutter with the birds  head in the wrong position.
It doesn’t take much to ruin the image or to lessen the impact the image, could have had if one had been patient.

Having the birds face angled away from us like this, detracts from the image.

Wood Ducks-1509

 

Remember, you are trying to show the bird off at its best, your photo should be all about the bird.

This image below has the bird looking alert with the face in a good position.

Wood Duck--19

 

Here is another example of how not to take a picture of your bird.
Going away, head facing away, just about everything about this image is wrong .
Bad boy Tony lol.

tētē the  Grey Teal-2569

 

Not all going away photos are bad.
This image still works well, because the all important face of the bird is still a strong feature in the image, especially the eye .

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This next image should need no further explaining as to why it simply sucks.

It might be a tad over stated, it might be a bit on the extreme side, but we should be getting to point.

Lady Amherst's pheasant

 

Be  patient, wait, wait, wait,  till you get a chance of a shot that flatters the bird and shows him or her off at his or her best.

Lady Amherst's pheasant

 

This week I am starting a series of images on my face book page here  that showcase New Zealand landscapes  in the format of a virtual road trip.
Starting from the top of the North Island we will work our way down to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island on the West Coast side and then work our way back up on the East Coast.

We start our journey at Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māori), which  is basically ,the northern most point of New Zealand.

The joining of two oceans, the Tasman on the left and the Pacific Ocean to the right , certainly  no place to float a dingy .

Cape Reinga  or te rerenga wairua

 

Tourists watch the year ending as the sun slips quietly out of sight behind the horizon.
Sunset New Years eve 2012

Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māori)